Fairbanks: Dad Did Not Want Me to Call Him DadBy Ross Hawkins @ 8:00 AM June 20, 2012
Second in a series
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. attended the Harvard School for Boys, a military academy established in 1900, at the corner of Western Avenue and Venice Boulevard. In 1937, the school moved to its present Studio City location, in Coldwater Canyon.
Fairbanks laughed when he recalled that his father didn't like to be addressed as "father" or "dad" as he grew into adulthood.
"What would you prefer to be called?” he asked.
"You may call me Pete."
Douglas Fairbanks Fairbanks only made one movie at MGM, "A Woman of Affairs," in 1927. Greta Garbo and John Gilbert starred, and it was directed by Clarence Brown, who later directed such MGM classics as "Anna Karenina," "National Velvet," "The Yearling" and "Intruder in the Dust." In "A Woman of Affairs," Fairbanks played Garbo's brother, and he received great reviews. He recalled that “Affairs" was based on a play called "The Green Hat." But censors objected to the storyline; Garbo's first husband, played by later cowboy actor Johnny Mack Brown, commits suicide because he is impotent.
Fairbanks recalled that they changed the title and storyline to "A Woman of Affairs," and Garbo's first husband leaps to his death while being chased by the police for embezzlement.
Recalling working with Garbo, Fairbanks said that “she had a great sense of humor, always playing serious, intensely dramatic parts, but she had a wonderful loud laugh."
“She would guffaw. Very unGarbolike. She was marvelous."
Regarding Louis B. Mayer, the legendary president of MGM, Fairbanks “wasn't terribly fond of him. Like everyone else, I was terrified of him.
“I should say he always was nice to me. I knew his daughters from school days. But he still terrified me. Scared everybody. When I was older, I didn't have anything to do with him."
After producing and starring in several films in England, Fairbanks returned to Hollywood in 1937 where he was offered the role of Rupert of Hentzau in the David O. Selznick production of "Prisoner of Zenda." Ronald Coleman
and Madeline Carroll played the leads.
I was lucky enough to be a star,” Fairbanks said, “my name above the title. That is the technical definition of a star. This time it meant being demoted. Ronald Coleman was the star. I was somewhere down at the bottom.
“My father advised me, "Don't worry! That was one of the best roles ever written. It’s so good Lassie could play the part and walk away with it." That talked me into it."
Regarding "Prisoner of Zenda" producer David Selznick, Fairbanks told me:
“He was one of the two or three best producers ever. Since I was a personal friend, I'm very prejudiced. David was a wonderful producer and a great friend."
(To be continued)